Released: 10th July 2000
Writers: Alexander Kronlund / Kristian Lundin / Max Martin
Peak position: #13
Chart run: 13-24-29-41-57-67
After victoriously reigniting their career with Bye Bye Bye, *NSYNC were poised for global domination. So, it was something of a surprise that they chose to consolidate their signature hit with a region-exclusive single in Europe.
It goes without saying that the American market was *NSYNC’s priority; compared to the record-breaking success of No Strings Attached there, the album’s performance here had been far more modest. Nevertheless, it was a bizarre decision to split the campaign at this point and release I’ll Never Stop here, instead of It’s Gonna Be Me. While this approach is not in itself a highly unusual tactic, for it to work effectively, at the very least, you have to invest a similar amount of effort into both singles. In this case, the strategy diverted all the attention (and budget) of the album campaign towards America and left us with a release that felt comparative to the sort chucked out at the end of an album campaign to mop up any leftovers. I’ll Never Stop certainly did not feel like the second single from one of the biggest global albums of the year. Which is faintly ironic (if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry) because, as it turns out, the track is an absolute bop.
I’ll Never Stop stands as a testament to just how slick Cheiron Studios were at this point; you didn’t need to consult the writing credits to know Max Martin was involved only a few seconds into the song. The brand identity was strong, and the sound was unmistakable. And while we rightly celebrate headline tracks like I Want It That Way, Bye Bye Bye and …Baby One More Time, this single is a timely reminder that the team was churning out a plethora of material, which flew under the radar somewhat. Usually to pad out the albums of their flagship acts. I’ll Never Stop might lack the pointed defiance of *NSYNC’s previous single, but with its bouncing beat and spiky snare kicks, it’s a worthy follow-up, nonetheless. And far from being an afterthought casually tossed in the direction of No Strings Attached, the song does have an identity. Both the album and video versions of I’ll Never Stop share the same mid-2000 Cheiron fascination with telephones and answering machines (seriously, what was that all about?), the like of which regularly interluded Britney’s Oops!…I Did It Again album, released a few months earlier.
Where I’ll Never Stop triumphs is in how effortlessly it draws together all the established ’00s Cheiron tropes into a brisk, feelgood pop track; sometimes that’s all you need. It’s much less a vocal showcase of *NSYNC than some of their other singles, but they are more than passengers on the song. The deceptively catchy: “I can wait for-e-e-ever ’til the end of time” hook is as much about the delivery as it is the composition. And then, of course, there’s the reliable middle-eight breakdown, with its brief piano chord progression and looming “Ooooh”s. It’s textbook Cheiron, which is absolutely no bad thing. Wisely, the production on I’ll Never Stop doesn’t ever linger long enough for the listener to question whether the song is perhaps too reminiscent of their previous tracks. Instead, it zips along at a belting pace, providing a quick hit of Swedish goodness.
At this stage, it all seemed a bit too good to be true. But sound the warning klaxon, because the music video for I’ll Never Stop was a dreaded compilation of backstage and live footage, and it’s easily the weakest part of the package. It wasn’t quite the worst effort, because there was at least some attempt to frame it in a reasonably original way. The video concept sees us entering a very turn-of-the-century bedroom painted the same garish green as that featured in Christina Aguilera’s Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You). This one, however, is home to several members of the *NSYNC International Fanclub. Thus footage of the group is creatively interspersed with shots of the fans gazing into scrapbooks or copying dance routines from the television. That’s all well and good; with the No Strings Attached tour well underway, there was presumably plenty of footage to choose from. But therein lies the biggest flaw with this whole concept: the tour was confined mainly to North America, where I’ll Never Stop wasn’t released or even included on the album. Therefore *NSYNC didn’t perform it on the tour. Releasing a backstage/performance music video is very high on our list of pop crimes, but if you’re going to do it, at least make sure you’ve performed the song in the first place!
I’ll Never Stop ended up peaking at #13 in the UK. It’s a real shame because this is a very worthy addition to the Cheiron catalogue, and would probably have performed much better had it been released with a proper video and some promotion. Ultimately, while No Strings Attached might never have replicated the success it enjoyed in America, this felt like a moment that irreparably hampered the album campaign in the UK. While the Backstreet Boys had mastered the art of balancing their international commitments (they’d had a bit more practice, in fairness), the *NSYNC campaign almost felt like it was overwhelmed by the success of No Strings Attached. And while it made sense to focus on America, it left the group’s international fanbase seeming like an after-thought, and that’s what they got in terms of chart returns. In the long run, though, we probably came off a bit better because I’ll Never Stop wasn’t released in America at all during the album campaign. And that is perhaps the biggest travesty of all.
And in our own unique way, we responded to No Strings Attached’s phenomenal first-week sales of 2.4 million copies in America by helping this single achieve a chart feat of its own: I’ll Never Stop was the UK’s biggest-selling cassette single in 2009, 2010 and 2011, amassing a grand total of…48 copies.